Bringing storytelling to everyone – the translation of the internet

Social media has been subjected to a lot of hype. There is no doubt about that.  My father still refers to Facebook as a, “Colossal waste of time.”  I won’t lie, my interest in social networking is not always about learning however, when I learned about what is happening at Captcha (Ahn, 2011) my faith in the internet and social media, as a way of sharing valuable knowledge and as a true learning tool, was restored.  It was a great story – so, I bought in. (Robinson, 2011)

We know through the profession of public relations that storytelling is the attention clincher – if you don’t have a strong story or something that is completely new or a unique offering (Alloccha, 2012), you’ll constantly be treading water in a sea of like-businesses.

If it takes only 100,000 people to build something amazing, like the pyramids (also one of the most mysterious and fabulous stories of our time), why wouldn’t we, the internet community of over 400 million, be able to do what Captcha tries to do? (Ahn, 2011)  Why not increase literacy and while we view our precious YouTube videos or sign up for or log into other social media platforms like Pinterest or Twitter?

The concept of Duolingo, Captcha’s sister company, is rooted in making storytelling available for all through a sense of community give-back. (Ahn, 2011) These are two key components to communication and society: communicative exchange and a sense of being needed or belonging. Its brand is embedded in that idea – to bring the stories of other languages to the English market and vice versa while engaging in a knowledge activity, learning a new language.  Even though it can be seen as free language lessons, this is a community-based as well as knowledge-based activity.  It is in the same vein as Wikipedia, working with what has been referred to before as the “Purpose Motive.” (Pink, 2010)

Everyone wants to belong – it is inherent to humans.  We need to find new ways to remain mentally-active as well as maintaining our communication needs to be benevolent and socially sincere in this ever-connected world.  Projects like Duolingo and Wikipedia help us do so.  As practitioners, the question we must ask our clients then is, how do they relate and how do they help motivate the user be a more active and constructive member of society?

(Side note:  Translation can be fun… imagine if we could translate baby speak? If we were to translate the above video, I think we could identify “Baby Left” as being the voice of reason:  “Where is your sock? It is cold.  You should wear socks?” and Baby Right (the wild one) as saying: “I don’t need to conform, I am going sock less and you aren’t going to stop me” – how would you interpret this dialogue?)


Ahn, Luis von. (April 2011). Massive-scale online collaboration. TEDxCMU. Last accessed October 15, 2013 at

Allocca, Kevin. (November 17, 2012). Why videos go viral. Last accessed October 15, 2013 at

Pink, Dan. (April 1, 2010). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. RSA Animate- YoutTube. Last accessed October 15, 2013 at

Robinson, Ben Scott. (January 31, 2011). MOMO Amsterdamn Talk: Interactive Narratives and Mobile. Last accessed October 15, 2013 at